I’m in the process of putting together a power point presentation for two zoo presentations in September; so I thought it would be fun to share some of the pictures here with you. The first presentation is at a special evening event at the Zurich Zoo in Switzerland on September 2nd. And the second at a zoo on the east coast of Italy on the Adriatic Sea in Lignano Sabbiadoro, September 11th. The presentation is called Profound Interspecies Connections, describing special experiences with a wide variety of animals including many exotics in zoos and some wonderful experiences with horses, dogs, cats, a mouse named Ace, reptiles, birds (my McCaw who sent the neighbors hunting dog packing!) and much more . I’ve been enjoying the memories of these magical moments as I’ve been preparing for the presentation.
One of my many treasured experiences was with a coyote named Mindy at the San Diego zoos Wild Animal Park in Escondido, California. Mindy was supposed to be leash-trained so she could be an ambassador at the Los Angeles zoo to greet visitors and allow them to pet her so people would gain a better understanding of coyotes. These intelligent four-leggeds are a big threat to cats and small dogs in the Los Angeles area, making them very unpopular as you well can imagine.
But Mindy had resisted training and had not been lead or even worn a collar when I was asked to work with her. This was right up my ally and gave me a chance to be very creative. How did I manage? By encouraging Mindy to trust me and then to play with me and ultimately she taught me how to teach her to lead. I began by honoring her innate intelligence and making a clear picture in my mind of our being together in a mutually enjoyable process.
After two sessions of just 5 minutes of TTouch with about a 10-minute break between, I invited her to play tug-of-war with a towel. In a very few minutes she was pulling me around and having a marvelous time. After I allowed her to gently pull me in her direction, I took her in my direction a little, not really tugging but more like an Aikido connection. Flowing together a little like an ocean wave, back and forth we moved with the towel connecting us. First I went in her direction and then she would come with me. Once she got that game down pat I substituted a light rope for the towel. It took about an hour total of 5-minute sessions with short breaks between working when she just hung out with me, and Mindy was leading quietly with me on a leash.
I seldom hear back about what happens after a session with an animals but this was different. Did she actually become an ambassador for coyote’s in a zoo? The answer is yes, and I just discovered this exciting news last April in Rhode Island where I was the Key Note Speaker at the ABMA (Animal Behavior Management Alliance) conference. A zookeeper attending the conference had worked with Mindy in a San Fernando Valley zoo north of Los Angeles and said that Mindy had indeed been a wonderful ambassador and had greeted many visitors over the years.
Another story I will be sharing is of a 2-month-old Orangutan named Louis the second who had a dangerously inadequate sucking reflex and it was questionable if he could survive. After 30 minutes of TTouch he guzzled a whole bottle of milk in 10 minutes for the first time, and in another 3 minutes of Ear TTouch he burped!